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Front Biosci. 2000 Jun 1;5:E36-52.

The renal medullary microcirculation.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Tufts University, USA.


Blood flow to the renal medulla is supplied through descending vasa recta (DVR), which are derived from the efferent arterioles of juxtamedullary glomeruli. In addition to their role as conduits for blood flow, it is accepted that the vasa recta are countercurrent exchangers. That process, however, involves events which are more complicated than paracellular diffusive exchange of NaCl and urea. Urea transport in DVR is accommodated through the combined expression of endothelial and erythrocyte facilitated carriers while transport of water involves solute driven efflux across water channels. Unlike DVR, which have a continuous endothelium, ascending vasa recta (AVR) are fenestrated with a very high hydraulic conductivity. Transport of water in AVR is probably governed by transmural hydraulic and oncotic pressure gradients. The parallel arrangement of DVR in outer medullary vascular bundles coupled with their capacity for vasomotion implies a role for regulation of the regional distribution of blood flow within the medulla The importance of the latter process in the urinary concentrating mechanism and the exchange of nutrients and O2 is poorly defined. The large number of hormones and autacoids that influence DVR vasomotion, however, suggests that DVR have evolved to optimize the functions of the renal medulla.

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